Body handling

For my dogs teaching them to be happy with handling is an ongoing process. I will probably be working at it all their lives.

Some dogs are far easier, and become much happier much faster, with body handling than others. Some dogs are fine with almost every aspect of handling, but have one little thing that they *hate*.

Kasper is a 5 year old BC x ESS that we adopted when he was 9 months old. He hadn’t had the best start and was scared of hands moving quickly, raised voices, strangers, handling and ‘trigger’ words.

He is now happy  with
– his paws being held and handled for long periods of time
– being stroked all over his body
– having a harness, collar and even a cone put on
– having paws bandaged, examined, thorns pulled out
– briefly having his lips lifted and his teeth examined (not comfortable with longer than 2 seconds)
– I can trim his fur single-handedly, although it is easier with two people (one dishing out treats)
– he can have his nails cut or filed, as long as it is me doing the dirty work and someone is dishing out treats constantly
– being dried with a towel
– brushing
– happy to wear ridiculous things, have them put on / taken off…t-shirts, bandanas etc


Kasper is not happy with
– muzzle training; this has been slow. He can put his nose in the muzzle, but whips it out most times. We’re not ready to fasten it yet!

In all the above scenarios it is only me or my partner that would be able to do this. If we were there keeping his focus on us, some could be carried out by another person, but Kasper would be far less comfortable.

It has taken me around 4 years to get to this stage.

Zoey is a 3 year old SBT that we rescued when she was 10 weeks old, and who we recently had to rehome due to separation anxiety. She’s doing well, and her owners took her for her first walk last weekend (she is scared of her harness so they wanted to gain her trust first) 🙂

I did body handling with Zoey from when we first brought her home, but she is VERY touch sensitive, so certain things were made much harder.

Zoey is happy with
– her paws being handled and briefly examined (no longer than 10 seconds max)
– her body being felt, stroked and squeezed
– her muzzle being held whilst maintaining eye contact
– her lips raised and her teeth examined
– being dried with a towel
– being shoved, slapped, kicked & shouted at (taught her these are awesome things to happen from puppyhood, she is after all a Staffy & people are dicks…)


Zoey absolutely hates
– having harnesses put on
– she will never be able to wear a coat, she cannot stand things touching her body, especially if it moves and touches different places as she walks

Raiden is an almost 7 month old Border Terrier puppy that we picked up from a breeder when he was 8 weeks old.

It is important to note that, because of Zoey, I did not do anywhere near as much training and socialisation with Raiden as I wanted to. Whilst he still got some awesome socialisation, I just couldn’t do as much as I wanted to – by the time he was 6 months old I wanted him to be used to bus rides in the day and short train journeys. Unfortunately because I had to spend 2 months indoors with Zoey, we didn’t meet these targets!

I also wanted to do a lot of handling work, from stripping, to opening his mouth, paw handling, nail cutting etc. Again this was put on the back burner; I virtually didn’t see him for an entire month when Zoey was at her worst because she was too stressed to be around the puppy (she was the problem, not Raiden – she couldn’t leave him alone or calm herself, whereas he could).

Whilst we did manage some things very well (stripping, cone work etc), others were missed.

Raiden is happy with
– Offering to have his front paws handled whilst maintaining eye contact (we’re up to about 5 seconds now)
– muzzle grabs; I’ve been doing this where I ask him to lie down, then grab his muzzle and click OR where I ask for a ‘touch’ and instead of a flat palm it’s cupped for a nose grab!
– being rubbed and gently slapped all over his body, especially during cuddle time or play
– plucking / stripping
– being brushed
– being towel dried
– being shoved, having his tail pulled
– eye contact (not exactly handling, but *shrug*)
– having harnesses put on and taken off, including attaching the lead
– having coats put on, walking & running in coats etc.

Raiden is not happy with
– anything that requires him to sit still longer than about 10 seconds…impatient little git 😉


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